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date: 22 September 2019

The Labor Movement and Sugar Industry in Tucumán in the 1960s and 1970s

Summary and Keywords

The province of Tucumán, Argentina, has been used as a test case for the fallacious “theory of the two demons” because it is both where a guerrilla movement formed in 1974 and where the country’s first clandestine detention center was established in the “escuelita” of Famaillá during “Operativo Independencia” in 1975. This “theory” reduces the conflict in the province to a confrontation in the Tucumán hills between no more than 150 combatants of the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, ERP) and 5,000 soldiers of the Argentine Army. This, however, largely conceals the social catastrophe suffered by Tucumán and the high levels of conflict that had already been taking place for more than a decade.

Previously, in August 1966, the provincial territory had been militarized by the new dictatorial government led by Juan Carlos Onganía. On that occasion, militarization sought to guarantee the closure of sugar mills. This generated an unprecedented economic and social crisis. Between 1966 and 1968, eleven mills were closed out of a total of twenty-seven, more than 50,000 jobs were eliminated in the sugar agro-industry alone, medium and small sugarcane producers were severely affected, and more than a quarter of the total population of the province was forced to emigrate in search of new sources of work. Such were the root causes of social conflict, led mainly by the sugar working class assembled in the Tucumán Workers Federation of the Sugar Industry (Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera, FOTIA), which the 1976 dictatorship was intent on reining in.

Keywords: Argentina, province of Tucumán, dictatorship, sugar agribusiness, working class, 1960s, 1970s

The province of Tucumán is located in the northwest region of the Argentine Republic, its history closely linked to the sugar industry. Since the end of the 19th century, this economic activity has structured social relations and, from then on, there has been constant tension over the distribution of its benefits: between the owners of the mills and the sugarcane producers over the cost of the raw material, and between these and the workers over salaries.

At the end of 1965, Tucumán was in the middle of an economic, social, and political crisis. During that year, the contrast between a successful harvest and limited sales underscored the perils of overproduction. Employers sought to mitigate the crisis to the detriment of workers, falling behind in the payment of wages.1

In this context, in June 1966, General Juan Carlos Onganía led the fifth coup in the history of 20th-century Argentina, against Arturo Illia of the centrist Radical Civic Union, ushering in a dictatorship that called itself the “Argentine Revolution.”2 Onganía carried out a policy of economic “rationalization,” which in the beginning was challenged by railroad workers, port workers, and in Tucumán by the sugar workers.

In the case of Tucumán, the process of “rationalization” and modernization involving the closure of eleven sugar mills. The elimination of jobs hit the backbone of the provincial economy, affecting the majority of the population. Given the characteristics of the sugar industry and its weight in the economy of Tucumán, sugar workers assumed a prominent role in opposing the policy of sugar-mill closures, managing in certain moments to attract and direct support from a wide variety of social forces. Likewise, in the confrontation with the government, the struggle of the working class developed from strikes in defense of jobs to openly challenging the dictatorial government, from an economic struggle to a political struggle that culminated in major mass uprisings.

Tucumán: Sugar and the Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera

By the last third of the 19th century, the sugar industry was the most labor-intensive economic activity in Tucumán. Around 1880, between 10,000 and 11,000 people worked in the sugar mills of Tucumán. Almost two decades later, in 1898, this number exploded to 70,000.3 Tucumán was constituted in a significant labor market that involved, in addition to the native labor force, a large number of migrant workers from neighboring provinces. In 1896, Argentina stopped importing sugar to become self-sufficient. It was also from that moment on that the first crisis of sugar overproduction occurred, a crisis that would be repeated more than once.4

Sugarcane is central to this production in Argentina, and was produced in six provinces during the mid-1960s: Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán in the Argentine Northwest, Chaco, Santa Fe and Misiones. It is a seasonal crop linked to the cane harvest period called “zafra,” which begins approximately in the month of May and concludes at the end of November, depending on the climatic conditions of each region.5

As a cyclical activity, workers are differentiated by the period for which they are employed (permanent or temporary), and also by the type of task they perform (factory or rural).6 Thus, the productive process includes both the factory—the sugar mill—where the sugar is made, and the fields where the cane is grown. Once the cane is cut it must be taken quickly to the mill to avoid the loss of the sucrose content and therefore the decrease of its yield. That is why the mills were installed near the plantations.

The Labor Movement and Sugar Industry in Tucumán in the 1960s and 1970s

Figure 1. Map of Tucumán showing the location of sugar mills, including those closed during and after the “Argentine Revolution,” 1966–1973. Developed by the author with Dr. Paula Boldrini.

Source: Silvia Nassif, Tucumán en llamas: El cierre de ingenios y la lucha obrera contra la dictadura (1966–1973) (Tucumán: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2016), 103.

Attracted by the sugar industry, important towns and villages grew throughout the province. In each of them, sugar constituted a central economic driver upon which different social sectors depended: workers, sugar-cane producing peasants, urban petty bourgeoisie, merchants, salaried workers, and professionals. In Tucumán, this agribusiness is located in two places: a concentrated core in the northeast area, close to the capital of San Miguel de Tucumán, and another area extended along national route 38, from the capital to the south of the province (fig. 1).

By integrating all stages of sugar processing and industrialization in the same area, factory workers and those working in the field coexisted regularly in and out of work. The agricultural stage corresponds to the cultivation, sowing, and harvesting of sugarcane, on lands belonging to either the sugar mill or capitalized producers, the latter being numerous and very important in Tucumán.7 The industrial stage covers the processing of sugar and other by-products derived from cane.

Despite differences between the tasks of the workers, demographic concentration, links throughout the productive cycle, and relationships in everyday life allowed workers to recognize their similar needs. This impelled the joint action of the sugar working class, an effort that culminated with the creation of the Workers Federation of the Sugar Industry (Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera, FOTIA) in 1944, bringing together factory and field workers.8 From the beginning, the FOTIA was linked to the rise of Peronism, which encouraged the creation of unions associated with specific occupations and linked together into a single national federation, the General Confederation of Labor (Confederación General del Trabajo, CGT).9

The fact that sugar workers were included in the statutes and then in the collective labor agreements of the FOTIA enabled them to secure better wages and working conditions than agricultural workers governed by the Rural Peon Statute. Even so, the relationship between factory and rural workers was complex, with the latter facing inferior living and working conditions. There were also many prejudices between them, fed on certain occasions by the sugar bosses and government officials.

In this way, the FOTIA became a key actor in the politics of the province and also in the national trade union movement. With the coup d’état against Juan Domingo Perón in 1955, the FOTIA coordinated the workers’ struggle and Peronist resistance in Tucumán. The government then stripped the FOTIA of its legal status, which it recovered only in 1958.

Under the government of Arturo Frondizi, beginning in 1959, there was a national escalation of protests, notably including the occupation of the meat-processing plant Frigorífico Lisandro de la Torre by its 9,000 workers.10 In June of that same year, the FOTIA—directed by Benito Romano—carried out one of the most important strikes in its history, which lasted forty-five days and ended when the governor of Tucumán, Celestino Gelsi, a Frondizi ally, suppressed the workers by force, killing two and injuring dozens. Nevertheless, the workers obtained a 70 percent rise in their pay.11

In June 1961, Tucumán was the site of the “Hunger Strike,” as residents named it, carried out by the Tucumán Union of Independent Cane Cutters (Unión de Cañeros Independientes de Tucumán, UCIT) and supported by the FOTIA. From different locations, they met in the Plaza Independencia in the center of the capital city; one of their demands was higher raters for sugar. Finally, the workers and the cane cutters were repressed and removed by the police.

In the first half of the 1960s, the FOTIA was the fourth-largest union in the country, after the Metalworkers’ Union (Unión Obrera Metalúrgica, UOM), and the federations of textile and meatpacking workers.12 In 1965, during the presidency of Arturo Illia, Atilio Santillán was elected general secretary, which meant that the leadership of the FOTIA was dominated by a sector of Peronism, although other political currents were represented as well, including radicals, communists, Trotskyists, and socialists. At that time, the Federation had fifty-five branch offices, with a membership estimated at 100,000 people.

In March 1965, sugar workers ran for national and provincial office, building on strategies determined in union assemblies. Eight FOTIA workers were elected, while Benito Romano was elected for the second time as a congressman.13

In this context, at the end of 1965, the crisis of sugar overproduction worsened. In January 1966, the FOTIA held the first congress of sectional delegates, in which almost 600 workers participated. There, through the activism of the delegates, an attempt was made to promote and prioritize a democratic discussion of the working-class base. The workers discussed issues ranging from how union structures should function to the economic and social policy implemented at the national and provincial levels.14

One of the most pressing issues discussed at the meeting was the increasing mechanization of the sugar industry since the early 1960s. In order to avoid job losses, the FOTIA proposed investments in worker training and new uses for sugarcane by-products. The purpose and benefits of technological innovation were also called into question, and it was argued that new advances should be at the service of the workers. Thus, the labor movement advanced from demands over wages to the elaboration of political proposals reflected in concrete programs.

As a product of those collective discussions, the FOTIA formulated alternatives to face the sugar crisis, and approved a plan of struggle. That is how the months before the coup d’état of June 1966 went, while the Tucumán crisis continued its course and at the national level the government was unable to provide tangible solutions or effectively resist the coup under way.

A World in Turmoil

The 1960s and 1970s, marked by the Cold War contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, were a period of significant economic and social transformations around the world. In Latin America, the Cuban Revolution in 1959 ushered in a period of intense labor and social struggles that questioned US hegemony in the continent. With the global economic crisis of the first half of the 1970s, this upsurge of agitation was brought to an abrupt end with coups across the Southern Cone and the establishment of military dictatorships, such as in Chile with the overthrow of the socialist Salvador Allende, and in Argentina with the dismissal of the Peronist government on March 24, 1976.

After the brief period of the Alliance for Progress in response to the Cuban Revolution, Latin America experienced a cycle of military coups, first in Brazil in 1964, followed by the American intervention in the Dominican Republic. These affirmed the US policy of promoting, in conjunction with dominant local sectors, a series of dictatorships presented as “modernizing” forces that could effectively fight communism and revolution with the use of the armed forces guided by National Security Doctrine. The 1966 coup d’état in Argentina led by General Onganía was part of this larger process.15

In the convulsive world of the 1960s and 1970s, in addition to workers’ movements, students also played an extraordinary role in European protests, including those in May 1968 in France, the Prague Spring of the same year, the 1969–1970 Hot Autumn in Italy, and the first rebellions of Polish workers against Russian domination in the late 1960s. Students also embraced radical politics in Latin America, from the Tlatelolco demonstrations in Mexico to the popular uprisings in Argentina like the Cordobazo, the Tucumanazos, and other “-azos.”

The Onganía Dictatorship and the Closure of Sugar Mills

On June 28, 1966, Juan Carlos Onganía overthrew the government of Arturo Illia. The Argentine University Federation (Federación Universitaria Argentina, FUA) was one of the national organizations that opposed the coup d’état. Thus, on July 29, one of the first measures Onganía took was an intervention in national universities, suppressing their autonomy and co-government. The dictatorship tried to apply a policy of “rationalization” that included attempts to close and privatize university dining halls, and efforts to impose a conservative and reactionary moral agenda that would stop men wearing their hair long, and stop women wearing miniskirts.16

With the establishment of the regime, a climate of chaos and confusion reigned in the popular sectors. Added to this was Juan Domingo Perón’s statement of the need to “get off and unsaddle the horse until it clears,” a call for patience.17 There was no national union opposition to the coup.

Two months later, repressive forces descended upon the province of Tucumán. On August 22, 1966, Decree-Law No. 16.926 was announced, which involved all sugar mills located within the limits of Tucumán. The dictatorial procedure of intervening, closing, and dismantling a considerable part of the productive apparatus of Tucumán was planned and executed. The intervention in the mills was carried out on the basis of a previous political campaign, with the promise of industrially expanding the province through agro-industrial diversification, maintaining all sources of work and guaranteeing a one-year salary for all the affected personnel. All this in the middle of the militarization areas surrounding the sugar mills.

The Labor Movement and Sugar Industry in Tucumán in the 1960s and 1970sClick to view larger

Figure 2. Sugar production in tons, by region, 1960–1973 and 2014. Y axis: tons. X axis: year. Developed by the author based on El azúcar Argentino en cifras, 1966–1973.

Source: Silvia Nassif, Tucumán en llamas: El cierre de ingenios y la lucha obrera contra la dictadura (1966–1973) (Tucumán: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2016), 111.

In Tucumán, the darkest effects of Onganiato’s economic “rationalization” plan became apparent. As a way out of the sugar crisis, and on the pretext of solving the alleged “inefficiency” and “monoproduction” of the sugar industry, the government actually accelerated the process of concentration, which had been developed for the benefit of the owners of the large sugar mills of Salta and Jujuy, which was also the most powerful sector of the Tucumán business community. This process helped the sugar monopolies advance in a process of technological modernization according to their own needs. This is demonstrated in the Tucumán sugar-production figures (fig. 2): 933,819 tons of sugar were produced in 1973, almost 25 percent more than in the record harvest of 1965, which yielded 749,575 tons. There was, however, one important difference: in 1973 there were only eleven mills, and 50,000 fewer jobs.

The widespread layoffs were a direct consequence of a policy carried out by the dictatorship.18 Many of the areas where mills had operated went from being thriving urban centers to towns stricken by hunger, unemployment, and rapid decline in population. The social crisis in these places was made worse by the closure of basic services, the resurgence of diseases associated with the increase in poverty, and a notable rise in infant mortality. In turn, the loss of employment had a strong impact on the subjectivity of those workers who could not find a way to support their families. Emigration led to family breakups. Many who left the province in search of work were ultimately unsuccessful in improving their living conditions, and suffered from the profound uprooting they experienced. There was also the rending of the social fabric, with a sharp increase in school dropouts, domestic violence, alcoholism, and other social ailments.19 The other side of these negative effects was resistance and political struggle through unions and new organizations.

Unemployment rates reached 13.5 percent in December 1968, contrasting with the increase in jobs at the national level that was typical of that stage of import substitution industrialization. Tucumán was also the only province that between 1960 and 1970 saw its population decrease. This was due to the very high migration, which exceeded population growth. What happened in Tucumán in those years was a true demographic drain: one out of every four people in Tucumán left the region; and one in four of the more than 200,000 people who had to leave had been linked to sugar.20

One of Onganiato’s responses to this general crisis was the formation of the “Comité Operación Tucumán” in November 1966 to generate palliative measures to address the dire consequences of this sugar policy. In this framework, and as part of the establishment of new companies that the government proclaimed, the struggle of the population of the Los Ralos sugar mill stood out.

The town of Los Ralos, located 22 kilometers from the capital city, was one of the many towns whose development had been closely linked to the sugar industry. When the mill was closed after more than ninety years of operation, the dictatorship promoted the opening of Textile Escalada, which employed less than 5 percent of the more than 2,700 former sugar workers. Two years later, the owners announced they would be closing Textile Escalada. The population as a whole was mobilized. One of the original forms of organization were the Pro-Defensa Commissions, a polyclassic agglomeration that represented different social sectors. These commissions arose in all the localities affected by the policy of closing mills and played a key role in demonstrations in defense of local employment.21

The struggle to reopen the Textile Escalada became a test case that revealed the failure of the supposed diversification of industry. It was also an indicator of the depth of the structural problems affecting the population, as well as the extent of the struggles in Tucumán during those years. After two years of resistance, the workers managed to reopen the textile mill under state management.22 However, in 1978 the dictator Jorge Rafael Videla ordered the factory be closed again. “Then fifteen residents of Los Ralos were kidnapped, of whom ten or eleven belonged or had worked in Escalada.”23

Tucumán in the Early Opposition to the Onganía Dictatorship

Resistance by the Tucumán labor movement represents one of the earliest cases of active opposition to the Onganía dictatorship, at a moment when labor conflicts had greatly diminished nationwide. From August 1966, amid the militarization of the areas of the mills that would later come under government control, workers began to protest against the closures. Between October and December 1966 there were stoppages with a high degree of compliance and that received the support of the university student movement.24

In early January 1967, fueled by unemployment and hunger in the towns threatened by the closures, one of the most striking events of the resistance against the Onganía dictatorship took place, based on a plan devised by the Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera (FOTIA). The tight provincial geography allowed close interconnection between the different social conflicts, between the rural and urban areas. Thus, the workers tried to reach San Miguel de Tucumán, some from the south of the province, concentrating on the union of Bella Vista, and others from the northeast, meeting in the union of the Concepción mill, the most important in the province.

The workers’ strategy of reaching the capital of the province had already been used by sugarmakers on several occasions, with different outcomes, from October 17, 1945, to the marches of the 1960s prior to the Onganiato. To converge in San Miguel de Tucumán, the seat of economic and political power in the province, meant to highlight the hardships that remained out of sight in the interior, and, moreover, enabled workers to join with other social sectors in struggle, such as the student movement and the teachers grouped in the Asociación Tucumana de Educadores Provinciales (ATEP), chaired by the teacher Isauro Arancibia, who would later be assassinated on March 24, 1976.

Such a prominent role for workers, and the confluence of popular struggles, was precisely what the dictatorship had set out to avoid at all costs. Yet, despite the deployment of repressive forces throughout the provincial territory, workers and their families managed to reach the agreed points. Integrating those delegations, Hilda Guerrero de Molina, a Peronist woman from Santa Lucía who helped organize popular food banks, traveled to Bella Vista. But the concentration of people was attacked by the police and, in the confrontation, Hilda was fatally shot. Her murder prompted an explosive reaction in Bella Vista, which became one of the first towns to come out forcefully against Onganía.25

At that time, the workers’ struggle for economic demands in defense of their jobs became a struggle against the government’s repressive and anti-populist policies, rising into a massive and anti-dictatorial campaign. By embracing that position, the FOTIA went against the approach adopted by the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) on a national scale, which still adhered to certain expectations during the dictatorship.26 In Tucumán, in a national context of dwindling workers’ struggles, an anti-dictatorial front was formed with different political tendencies, a confluence of different social sectors in the streets. This act of rebellion would help fuel subsequent social outbursts such as the Cordobazo.

New Popular Regroupings and Worker-Student Unity

At the national level, in 1968 a new pole opposed to the de facto government emerged with the General Confederation of Labor of the Argentines (Confederación General del Trabajo de los Argentinos, CGTA) trade union. In Tucumán, the Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera (FOTIA) served as the initial backbone of this labor center, with Benito Romano presiding over the Regional CGT. At the same time, links between workers and students were increasing, leading to significant joint actions. The province of Tucumán became a national reference point in the struggle against the Onganía dictatorship. This was also reflected in art and culture when a group of artists from Rosario and Buenos Aires, with the support of the CGTA, produced a show called “Tucumán Arde,” which marked a milestone in the history of contemporary Argentine art.27

However, for the sugar producers, it was a difficult situation since, beginning in May 1969, the new leadership of the FOTIA under Ángel Basualdo as secretary general was more disposed to conciliatory positions with government officials. In this changed context, new groups gained more prominence, like the Comisión Sindical de Ingenios Cerrados, led by Benito Romano and Leandro Fote, among others. The Pro-Defense Commissions in the sugar villages also took on a greater role.

At the national level, the social unrest that broke out in May 1969, particularly with the Cordobazo, ushered in a new era and a qualitative leap in the formation of a very broad anti-dictatorial social front. In the province of Córdoba, on May 29, the “powder keg” so feared by the regime’s officials exploded. Workers and students occupied a considerable part of the city in an uprising with pre-insurrectional characteristics. The Cordobazo was the epicenter and the apex of the protests that took place in different regions of the country, as in the provinces of Corrientes and Rosario, undermining the foundations of the Onganía dictatorship.28

From then on, nothing was as before in the historical and political life of Argentina. There was an impulse in the political activity of the popular classes, with the deployment of forces that struggled to affirm different political outcomes: reclaiming the political influence of Perón in exile, increasingly visible actions by armed organizations, renewed activity on the part of traditional political parties, and the emergence of a vast “new left” that radicalized both the youth organizations of traditional ideological currents (Peronist, radical, Christian, among others) and that of a revolutionary Marxist left.

In Tucumán there were also widespread popular uprisings fueled by the sugar workers’ previous resistance efforts. In April 1969, villagers in the town of Villa Quinteros, located 67 kilometers from the capital, were repressed when they tried to prevent the dismantling of the San Ramón sugar mill. However, they resisted government forces. The confrontation acquired the character of a “pueblada,” a village-wide uprising. It lasted seven hours and had intense repercussions in the provincial capital. In May of that year—against the backdrop of events in Corrientes, Rosario, and Córdoba—San Miguel de Tucumán witnessed some elements typical of those uprisings referred to as “-azos,” in an incipient and fleeting manner, with the confluence of workers and students in revolt at the FOTIA’s headquarters on May 28 and the subsequent workers’ strike on May 30.29

In Tucumán, the center of the conflict had moved to the capital city. Although the struggle of the former sugar-mill workers continued, their movement was weakened by factors limiting their traditional centrality as the driving force of social conflicts. On the one hand, closures and unemployment had created a demographic drain that reduced the numbers of the working class. Unemployment itself created unfavorable conditions for union activity among the employed. On the other hand, Basualdo’s leadership of the FOTIA inhibited the possibility that the union could play a leading political role in popular anti-dictatorial mobilizations, which in those years reached their broadest and highest level across the country.

In spite of these factors that hampered the struggle of the sugar producers, the popular uprising of November 1970, known as the “Tucumanazo,” involved the full deployment of the aforementioned elements. Under Roberto Levingston, who had replaced Onganía, social conflict in the province became particularly acute. Conflict erupted two days before the national strike that had been called by the trade union confederations.

The main stage of struggle was now the capital of the province, where demonstrators besieged the seat of government. The student movement came ahead of the strike. The confluence of the generalized student revolt in defense of the university cafeteria with the national workers’ strike on November 12 and 13 signaled a escalation of the events of the previous year in Tucumán. It was in this “-azo” that the activism of the workers’ movement, which predominantly manifested as street action, became more evident, and became in fact the unifying reference point of the other popular sectors.

In March 1971, Levingston was replaced by Agustín Lanusse, with national elections scheduled for March 1973. However, far from quieting the mood of the popular sectors, this measure generated great expectations for the return of Perón, while protests multiplied throughout Argentina as demonstrated by the popular uprisings of the “Mendozazo,” the “Rocazo,” and others.

In this context, on June 21, 1972, the police suppressed the demonstrations of state workers and students who had shown solidarity with them in what became known as the “Segundo Tucumanazo” or the “Quintazo.” The confrontation between demonstrators and repressive forces was particularly violent on this occasion. The police were overwhelmed and the army had to intervene to suppress the protests. This conflict was notable for the degree of organization shown by the popular movements in the country and in the province, and because from the beginning it involved more than immediate sectorial demands, adopting an anti-dictatorial position combining democratic and anti-imperialist demands. The violence of the demonstrations was not, however, exercised on the seat of political power. Unlike the Tucumanazo of 1970, the Quintazo occurred mainly in the university spaces of the city center and the Quinta Agronómica in the southwest zone.

The industrial working class had a lower involvement in the Quintazo of 1972. At first, the organized labor movement participated in a limited capacity until the moment the CGT called for strike action on June 27, uniting its specific demands with solidarity toward the student movement and in repudiation of the murder of Víctor Villalba by police.30 By contrast, other salaried sectors were involved, along with very broad sectors from poorer neighborhoods around the Quinta Agronómica, with the student movement becoming the most active voice of the anti-dictatorial struggle and an organizational center of popular protest.

Thus, during the dictatorship of the so-called “Argentine Revolution” there was a profound radicalization of the broadest layers of the population in opposition to the dictatorship, a process of struggle that culminated in the Tucumanazos. The different uprisings had some common elements. They were popular urban rebellions with an important worker and student component. They also brought together large sectors of employees and the petty bourgeoisie. Significant clashes took place with the repressive forces, which in some cases involved the intervention of the army, generating notable mass mobilization and the occupation of a considerable part of the cities. These uprisings weakened political power, both at the provincial level and at the national level, becoming one of the causes of dictatorial changes, alongside the internal contradictions of the regime. At the same time, they promoted the development of mass, union, and political organizations.

Third Peronist Government, Operativo Independencia, and a Coup d’état

In November 1972, after the negotiated dismantling of the dictatorship, Perón returned to the country for the first time after seventeen years of exile. As soon as he arrived, an intense dispute broke out over hegemony within the government. In September 1973, after the short government of Héctor Cámpora, Juan Domingo Perón and his wife, María Estela “Isabel” Martínez de Perón, won the elections, becoming president and vice-president respectively. In the economic sphere the agreement called Social Pact between the Peronist government, the Confederación General Económica, and the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) was maintained.

After Perón’s death on July 1, 1974, and under the weak presidency of Martínez de Perón, the divisions within the Peronist movement were exacerbated while repressive and parastatal politics increased along with the actions of armed organizations. The social pact was increasingly questioned by workers, who saw their purchasing power decrease in the face of the rising cost of living.

In this complex context came the sugar strike of September 1974. The workers of Tucumán still suffered from the closure of the plantations, while the process of eliminating labor continued along with low wages and poor working conditions at job sites, a situation that was even worse for rural workers. Against this backdrop, in full harvest, workers paralyzed the mills for over two weeks, causing significant losses to employers. The Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera (FOTIA), which at that time numbered between 50,000 and 60,000 workers organized in forty grassroots unions, demanded the reopening of the closed mills; rejected the total mechanization of the harvest until the creation of new jobs was guaranteed, requiring that every thousand rows of cane be used for a worker and a half; and fought for the defense of the national sugar company (Compañía Nacional Azucarera S.A., CONASA), among other demands.31

The different political currents within the trade union elements of the FOTIA could be articulated around this measure of force, which required an important organizational and democratic discussion organized around the congresses of sectional delegates, in which at least 500 delegates participated. The Peronist sector, led by re-elected secretary general Atilio Santillán, maintained the direction of the strike. Eventually, however, the congress consented to the government’s request to end the strike, and a few days later the government agreed a wage increase of half of what the workers had demanded. That was enough to break the wage freeze imposed by the Social Pact, and exceeded inflation rates. Likewise, employers’ attempts to mechanize rural tasks were temporarily thwarted, so rural workers were able to avoid further widespread unemployment, at least for a while.

The Tucumán case is another example of how technological and productive modernization in industry within the capitalist system is conceived and implemented in order to maximize profit, thereby benefiting monopolistic sugar groups. Its consequences show that this “modernization” was carried out—as has happened in so many other cases throughout history—at the cost of unemployment and hunger for the local population. The question of how to deal with unemployment caused by the mechanization of the sugar industry was discussed up until the 1976 coup d’état. During that time, workers carried out different responses, sometimes in concert, from burning harvester machines to the formulations developed by the FOTIA, which aimed to prevent layoffs until new jobs were created, the diversification of the sugar agroindustry, and also the nationalization of the agroindustry with worker control.

The sugar workers’ strike of 1974 was the culmination of the workers’ struggle centered in the FOTIA. After that, the workers carried out various protests through their grassroots organizations. But the situation for the sugar-workers’ movement and other popular sectors became increasingly complex.

After February 1975, Tucumán underwent a new military intervention with Operativo Independencia, or Operative Independence, through National Executive Decree No. 261/75. This operation was supposedly launched against guerrilla groups, who in fact numbered fewer than 150 people, in the Tucumán hills, beginning in May 1974, but actually allowed the deployment of more than 5,000 soldiers in the province, foreshadowing an approach that would later be extended and intensified at the national level.32

During Operation Independence, under the leadership first of General Adel Vilas and later of Antonio Domingo Bussi, the labor movement in Tucumán suffered the arrest, kidnapping, and disappearance of workers as well as extreme control in their workplaces. These antecedents of struggle and union conflict are very important for understanding the dynamics of repression in the area. Vilas explained that his actions in the province were centered on the “union area and within it the main objective was FOTIA.”33 Then, the first clandestine detention centers were set up in the country, like the well-known “escuelita” of Famaillá.34

Operation Independence involved military occupation of the public space and limited the action of the workers’ movement in pressing its demands on the political plane. The use of the army for internal repression paved the way for the coup d’état that would overthrow the Peronist government, both in terms of using force to suppress the populace, and in the more general political field. Once the coup had been accomplished, state terrorism could be implemented at the national scale under the central control of the armed forces.

On the day of the coup, March 24, 1976, the FOTIA was carrying out a thirty-six-hour stoppage in protest at the unresolved murder of Atilio Santillán, which occurred two days earlier. On the same day, Bussi, through the repressive forces, suspended and banned the strike and intervened in the sugar workers’ union, the regional CGT, and the National University of Tucumán. Dictatorial repression focused on the workers’ movement and the popular sectors. Some of the protagonists of this story were kidnapped and disappeared, including leaders like Benito Romano, of the former Esperanza sugar mill; Simón Campos of the Santa Rosa mill; Leandro Fote of the former San José sugar mill; Martin Décima of La Florida sugar mill; Jacobo Ortiz from the La Fronterita sugar mill; and Zoilo Reyes of the Concepción sugar mill. These are only some of the general secretaries of the unions and thousands of other workers who became the victims of state terror.

It is no coincidence that the geography of repression mapped onto that of the earlier struggles, and many sugar mills were converted into bases for military operations and clandestine detention centers. Thus, the repressive points bordered the two main areas where the sugar agro-industry was established.35 In this way, the militarized zone coincided exactly with the most important workers’ centers in Tucumán.

Discussion of the Literature

The 1960s and 1970s remain a focal point of historiographical, theoretical, and political debate in Argentina, largely due to the need to explain the causes of state terror. From the discursive construction that sought to justify the actions of the armed forces in internal repression, the crisis in the province of Tucumán has received special attention.36

The 1976 dictatorship presented the Tucumán case as an example of a “war” that would be waged against “subversion.” Later, in December 1983, the new constitutional government carried out an assessment of the dictatorship and the country’s recent political history, in which the idea of a confrontation between two sides, or “two demons,” gained renewed currency, reducing political and social unrest to a confrontation between a guerrilla group and the armed forces associated with the state.37 With this “theory,” members of the military and guerrillas were put on trial, but the main actors of the social conflict in Argentina in those years prior to the dictatorship were left largely unexamined, along with the causes of the conflict and the interests at stake behind the repression.

Faced with this reductionist or negationist vision, analysis of the struggles of the Tucumán sugar workers took on special relevance as a means of recovering their central role in society and in the understanding of the national historical process.38 Likewise, reconstructing events in Tucumán during the first months of the Onganiato allows us to reconsider the periodization of popular struggles in Argentina during the dictatorship of the “Argentine Revolution,” commonly centered on the popular uprisings of May 1969 with the Cordobazo. In the case of Tucumán, the process of political and social radicalization began before the coup d’état of 1966, largely due to the sugar crisis, which was deepened by Onganía’s policy of closing sugar mills and destroying jobs.

Some studies on the Tucumanazos minimize the participation and the impulse of the working class, emphasizing almost entirely the participation of the student movement in the protests.39 This interpretation does not account for the origins of the protests or the mass and popular support they received. Indeed, the process cannot be fully understood if we disconnect the popular uprisings that started in San Miguel de Tucumán in 1969 from the initial struggles in the sugar sector, or if we do not contrast the workers’ activism in that process with the diversity of social components in subsequent outbreaks. These phenomena are not reducible to student activism nor can they be explained only by the radicalization of young people at the time.

Studies on the recent history of Tucumán have become more numerous in the 21st century, drawing on contributions from various disciplinary fields such as history, sociology, anthropology, archeology, psychology, and journalism, among others. However, this growth in production has been uneven with respect to the periods addressed in this article. Areas of special interest have included works that investigate the closing stage of sugar mills in 1966 as well as studies of the repressive Operation Independence in 1975.40 There are almost no investigations that reconstruct and analyze the transformations that took place in Tucumán during the last dictatorship, a time and place that need to be systematically addressed. On the other hand, studies have dug deeper into the repression of the labor and union movement in the last dictatorship and the effective collusion between the armed forces and some business sectors to exert repressive power against the workers.41

New research on this period also includes analysis of the economic and social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s, the confrontation between capital and labor in the fields of production, as well as the radicalization of the workers’ movement and its role as a central actor in economic and political struggles.

Primary Sources

Approaching recent Argentine history is a methodological challenge, especially for the period of the dictatorship, due to the difficulty of accessing scarce and scattered documentation. This is especially true in the study of Tucumán, which suffered under the deployment of the Argentine army during Operation Independence and that had in its territory the first clandestine detention center in the country, in the “escuelita” of Famaillá.

The lack of documents is further aggravated in the case of sugar workers, since most of the documents (union records, publications, etc.) were destroyed during the period of state terror. Therefore, the documents found in 2016 at the Federación Obrera Tucumana de la Industria Azucarera (FOTIA) trade union headquarters are of inestimable historical value. As a result of the discovery of this material, the FOTIA Historical Archive “Hilda Guerrero de Molina” was created, in which a set of documents of various kinds related to the trade union organization is conserved from different stages of its institutional history.

In order to assess the workers’ movement at a national level, one can consult the Archivo del Ministerio de Trabajo de la Nación Argentina and the Archivo Intermedio del Archivo General de la Nación. Also, the archive of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) in Buenos Aires, along with press material focusing on national trade unionism, are held at the Archivo del Sindicalismo Argentino Santiago Senén González, at Torcuato Di Tella University. One can also review the Semanario de la CGT de los Argentinos at the Federación Gráfica Bonaerense. Another important resource is the Informes Laborales del Servicio de Documentación e Información Laboral (DIL), created in 1960 by Leonardo Dimase, the complete collection of which can be found in the Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones Laborales (CEIL).

National and local press remain sources of great historical value in reconstructing the political, economic, and social events of the period, with chronicles narrating popular demonstrations and labor struggles. These newspapers can be consulted in Buenos Aires in the newspaper archives of the Mariano Moreno National Library and the National Congress. Likewise, at the provincial level, one can consult the archive of the newspaper La Gaceta in Tucumán. The evening paper Noticias can be found, albeit incompletely, at the Museo de la Casa Histórica in Tucumán.

An important documentary collection is available at the Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas en la Argentina (CeDInCI), where one can consult pamphlets, leaflets, magazines, and newspapers from different trade unions, student currents, and political parties. There are also different digitized documentation centers available, with material online, such as the digital archives of Documentos del Arte Latinoamericano y Latino de Siglo XX: Proyecto de Archivo Digital y de Publicaciones, organized by the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (ICAA). Another important initiative is Ruinas Digitales, organized by a group of political-science students at the University of Buenos Aires. Fundación Pluma and El Topo Blindado are other sources worth exploring.

At the national level, the documentary collection at the Archivo Nacional de la Memoria de la Secretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Nación contains a significant number and variety of documents on the period of state terror, enabling researchers to reconstruct personal trajectories, organizational developments, and the logic of the repressive apparatus. The Archivo de la Dirección de Inteligencia de la Policía de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (DIPBA), part of the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria, contains an extensive and detailed record of political and ideological espionage.

Regarding the sugar industry, one can consult the Biblioteca de la Estación Experimental Agroindustrial Obispo Colombres and the documentary holdings at the Centro Azucarero Argentino and its magazine La Industria Azucarera, with data on various companies.

Different testimonials from activists of the 1960s and 1970s are held at the Archivo Testimonial sobre el Operativo Independencia y la dictadura militar en Famaillá, Tucumán (1975–1983), by the Grupo de Investigación sobre el Genocidio en Tucumán (GIGET), and in the oral history archive Memoria Abierta in Buenos Aires.

Audiovisual productions are also available, documenting various events of the 1960s in Tucumán, especially the CineLiberación Group, led by filmmaker Gerardo Vallejo, who sought to capture the crisis of the sugar-mill closures in films such as Olla Popular (1968) and El camino hacia la muerte del viejo Reales (1968), both of which are available on the internet.


The author thanks Martina Aduriz, Andrea Copani, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History team.

Further Reading

Azcoaga, Germán. “La Democracia Cristiana frente al régimen de Onganía: Un abordaje desde el caso tucumano.” Estudios Sociales, revista universitaria semestral 42, no. 1 (2012): 119–153.Find this resource:

Boneo, Horacio, et al. Análisis y evaluación del plan de transformación agro-industrial de la provincia de Tucumán. Buenos Aires: Ediciones de Consejo Federal de Inversiones, 1973.Find this resource:

Canitrot, Adolfo, and Juan Sommer. Diagnóstico de la situación económica de la provincia de Tucumán. Buenos Aires: Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, 1972.Find this resource:

Chamosa, Oscar. “Folk Festivals, Community Development, and the Sugar Industry Crisis in Tucumán, Argentina, 1966–1973.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. 2017, January 25.Find this resource:

Crenzel, Emilio. El Tucumanazo. Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 1997.Find this resource:

Giarraca, Norma, ed. Tucumanos y Tucumanas: Zafra, trabajo, migraciones e identidad. Buenos Aires: La Colmena, 2000.Find this resource:

Gutiérrez, Florencia, and Gustavo Rubinstein, eds. El primer peronismo en Tucumán: Avances y nuevas perspectivas. Tucumán: EDUNT, 2012.Find this resource:

Jemio, Ana Sofía. “FOTIA, sus sindicatos y afiliados: Una aproximación a los marcos discursivos y propuestas programáticas de la clase obrera azucarera tucumana en 1963.” Paper presented at the “Jornadas Internacionales de Problemas Latinoamericanos” conference, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Mendoza, November 2012.Find this resource:

Kotler, Rubén. “El Tucumanazo, los Tucumanazos 1969–1972: Memorias enfrentadas; entre lo colectivo y lo individual.” Paper presented at the 11th “Jornadas Interescuelas / Departamentos de Historia” conference, Tucumán, September 2007.Find this resource:

Mercado, Lucía. Santa Lucía de Tucumán: La Base. Buenos Aires: Lucía Mercado, 2005.Find this resource:

Murmis, Miguel, and Carlos Waisman. “Monoproducción agroindustrial, crisis y clase obrera: La industria azucarera tucumana.” Revista Latinoamericana de Sociología 5, no. 2 (1969): 344–383.Find this resource:

Nassif, Silvia. Tucumanazos: Una huella histórica de luchas populares, 1969–1972. Tucumán: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2012.Find this resource:

Nassif, Silvia. Tucumán en llamas: El cierre de los ingenios y la lucha obrera contra la dictadura (1966–1973). Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2016.Find this resource:

Orquera, Fabiola, ed. Ese Ardiente Jardín de la República: Formación y desarticulación de un “campo” cultural; Tucumán, 1880–1975. Córdoba: Alción Editorial, 2010.Find this resource:

Pavetti, Oscar. “Azúcar y Estado en la década de 1960.” In Estudios de Historia Social en Tucumán. Vol. 2. Edited by Luis Bonano. Tucumán: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2001.Find this resource:

Programa Verdad y Justicia de la Nación, et al. Responsabilidad empresarial en delitos de lesa humanidad: Represión a trabajadores durante el terrorismo de Estado. Buenos Aires: Infojus, 2015.Find this resource:

Pucci, Roberto. Historia de la destrucción de una provincia: Tucumán, 1966 Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Pago Chico, 2007.Find this resource:

Pucci, Roberto. “Tucumán, 1975: La guerrilla y el terrorismo de Estado antes del golpe militar.” In Autoritarismo y dictadura en Tucumán. Edited by Luis Bonano and Roberto Pucci. Buenos Aires: Catálogos, 2009.Find this resource:

Racedo, Josefina. Crítica de la vida cotidiana en comunidades campesinas: Doña Rosa, una mujer del noroeste argentino. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Cinco, 2000.Find this resource:

Ramírez, Ana Julia. “Tucumán, 1965–1969: Movimiento azucarero y radicalización política.” Nuevo Mundo, Mundos Nuevos: Debates (2008).Find this resource:

Sigal, Silvia. Acción obrera en una situación de crisis: Tucumán, 1966–1968. Buenos Aires: Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, 1973.Find this resource:

Siviero, Fernando. “Yo soy Atilio Santillán: Un hombre y su época.” Norte Andino 4 (1989).Find this resource:

Taire, Marcos. El último grito, 1974: Crónica de la huelga de los obreros tucumanos de la FOTIA. Buenos Aires: Lumiere, 2008.Find this resource:

Verón, Alejandro. “La crisis azucarera de los años ’60 en Argentina y su impacto en la estructura productiva cañera.” Paper presented at the 8th “Congreso Latinoamericano de Sociología Rural,” Pernambuco, Brasil, 2010.Find this resource:


(2.) Studies of the dictatorship that referred to itself as the “Argentine Revolution” include: Juan Carlos Portantiero, “Economía y política en la crisis argentina 1958–1973,” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 39, no. 2 (1977): 531–565; Gregorio Selser, El Onganiato (Buenos Aires: Carlos Samonta Editor, 1973); Guillermo O’ Donnell, 1966–1973, El Estado Burocrático Autoritario: Triunfos, derrotas y crisis (Buenos Aires: Editorial de Belgrano, 1982); Alain Rouquié, Poder militar y sociedad política en la Argentina, vol. 2, 1943/1973 (Buenos Aires: EMECE, 1982); Eduardo Crawley, Una casa dividida: Argentina 1880–1980 (Buenos Aires: Alianza, 1989); Robert Potash, El Ejército y la política en la Argentina, 1962–1973 (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1994); Liliana De Riz, La política en suspenso, 1966/1976 (Buenos Aires: Paidós, 2000); Mario Rapoport, Historia económica, política y social de la Argentina (1880–2003) (Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 2007); César Tcach, “Golpes, proscripciones y partidos políticos,” in Violencia, proscripción y autoritarismo (1955–1976), ed. Daniel James, Nueva Historia Argentina 9 (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2007); and Eduardo Basualdo, Estudios de historia económica argentina: Desde mediados del siglo XX a la actualidad (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 2010).

(3.) Data on the number of workers during the last third of the 19th century taken from Daniel Campi, “Economía y sociedad en las economías del Norte,” in El progreso, la modernización y sus límites (1880–1916), ed. Mirta Zaida Lobato, Nueva Historia Argentina 9 (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2000), 90, 93. For different works on the beginnings of the modern agroindustrial industry, see Jorge Balán, “Una cuestión regional en la Argentina: Burguesías provinciales y el mercado nacional en el desarrollo del mercado agroexportador,” Desarrollo Económico 69 (1978): 49–87; Donna Guy, Política azucarera argentina: Tucumán y la generación del 80 (Tucumán: Fundación Banco Comercial del Norte, 1981); Luis Marcos Bonano and Eduardo Rosenzvaig, De la manufactura a la revolución industrial: El azúcar en el norte argentino; fases y virajes económicos (Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 1992); and Daniel Campi, ed., Estudios sobre la historia de la industria azucarera (Jujuy: Universidad Nacional de Jujuy, 1991).

(4.) On the different crises of sugar overproduction , see Ariel Osatinsky and Pablo Paolasso, “La industria en la provincia de Tucumán: de la expansión azucarera a la desindustrialización,” in Industria y Sociedad: El sector manufacturero en Jujuy y Argentina, ed. Liliana Bergesio and Laura Golovanesky (Jujuy: EdiUnju, 2012).

(5.) “En Tucumán, se dice indiscriminadamente la zafra o la cosecha para referirse a la cosecha de la caña de azúcar,” María Delia Paladini, La terminología de la zafra tucumana (Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 1969), 42. For a brief introduction to the development of the sugar industry from its origins to the beginning of the 2010s, see Sebastián Malizia, Matilde García Moritán, and Alejandro Brown, Bitácora: La ruta del azúcar (Tucumán: Ediciones del Subtrópico, 2014).

(6.) For a characterization of the sugar proletariat in the 1960s, see Miguel Murmis and Carlos Waisman, “Monoproducción agroindustrial, crisis y clase obrera: La industria azucarera tucumana,” Revista Latinoamericana de Sociología 5, no. 2 (1969): 344–383. See also Silvia Sigal, “Crisis y conciencia obrera: La industria azucarera tucumana,” Revista Latinoamericana de Sociología 2 (July 1969); Mirtha Rodríguez, “La relación capital/trabajo, conflicto, organización e identidades colectivas en la agro industria azucarera tucumana (1966–1976)” (masters’ thesis, Facultad de Filosofía de la Universidad de Córdoba, 2006); and Nassif, Tucumán en llamas.

(7.) For some specific works on the sugarcane producers sector in Tucumán, see Roberto Pucci, “La élite azucarera y la formación del sector cañero en Tucumán (1880–1920),” in Conflictos y procesos de la Historia Argentina Contemporánea, by Roberto Pucci (Buenos Aires: CEAL, 1989); and María Celia Bravo, Campesinos, azúcar y política: cañeros, acción corporativa y vida política en Tucumán (1895–1930) (Rosario: Prohistoria Ediciones, 2008).

(8.) On sugar organizations prior to the constitution of FOTIA, see Daniel Santamaría, Azúcar y Sociedad en el Noroeste Argentino (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del IDES, 1986); María Ulivarri, “Sindicatos en ‘la capital del azúcar’: Organización y lucha en el mundo del trabajo de la provincia de Tucumán (Argentina), 1930–1943,” Historia Agraria 55 (2011): 101–133; and Esteban Piliponsky, “¿Sindicatos fuertes con poder de negociación débil? Análisis del sindicalismo tucumano previo al surgimiento del peronismo,” A contra corriente 10, no. 1 (2012): 310–333.

(9.) On the formation of FOTIA and its links to Peronism, see Louise Doyon, “La organización del movimiento sindical peronista 1946–1955,” Desarrollo Económico 24, no. 94 (1984): 203–234; Juan Carlos Torre, La vieja guardia sindical y Perón: Sobre los orígenes del peronismo (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1990); Gustavo Rubinstein, Los sindicatos azucareros en los orígenes del peronismo tucumano (Tucumán: Instituto de Estudios Socio Económicos de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas de la Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2006); and Florencia Gutiérrez, “La dirigencia de FOTIA y los sindicatos de base: Tensiones y conflictos en el proceso de sindicalización azucarera, 1944–1955,” in El primer peronismo en Tucumán: Avances y nuevas perspectivas, ed. Florencia Gutiérrez and Gustavo Rubinstein (Tucumán: EDUNT, 2012).

(10.) Some time after the sugar strike, in the provinces of Tucumán and Santiago del Estero, one of the first guerrilla experiences emerged, carried out by the Movimiento Peronista de Liberación—Ejército de Liberación Nacional, “Uturuncos.” One of the only studies on the Uturuncos is Ernesto Salas, Uturuncos: El origen de la guerrilla peronista (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2006). On the 1959 sugar strike, see Graciela del Valle Romano, Benito, Azúcar y Sangre: FOTIA y la huelga azucarera de 1959; desde sus primeras luchas reivindicativas hasta 1962 (Buenos Aires: Graciela del Valle Romano, 2009).

(11.) On the Peronist resistance in Tucumán, see Josefina Centurión, “El sindicalismo tucumano ante la caída de Perón: Respuestas y perspectivas políticas, 1955–1959” (paper presented at the 10th “Jornadas Interescuelas / Departamentos de Historia” conference, Córdoba, 2005). On the history of Benito Romano as union leader, see Silvia Nassif, “El obrero azucarero Benito Romano, dirigente de su clase,” in Dirán “hubo gigantes aquí”: Izquierda, peronismo y clase obrera en los ’60 y ’70, ed. Brenda Rupar, Ana Costill, and Guido Galafassi (Buenos Aires: Ranelagh, Extramuros Ediciones, 2017).

(12.) Pucci, Historia de la destrucción, 198.

(13.) On the participation of FOTIA in the 1965 elections, see Ernesto González, ed., El trotskismo obrero e internacionalista en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Antídoto, 1999).

(14.) On the first congress of sectorial delegates in January 1966, see Nassif, Tucumán en llamas, 181–192.

(15.) For studies of the Cold War in Argentina, see Mario Rapoport, “La Argentina y la Guerra Fría: Opciones económicas y estratégicas de la apertura hacia el este, 1955–1973,” Ciclos en la historia, la economía y la sociedad 5, no. 8 (1995): 91–122; Rubén Laufer and Mario Rapoport, “Estados Unidos ante el Brasil y la Argentina: Los golpes militares en la década del ’60,” Cuadernos de Ciclos 6 (December 1999); and Mario Rapoport and Claudio Spiguel, Política exterior Argentina: Poder y conflictos internos (1880–2001) (Buenos Aires: Capital Intelectual, 2005).

(16.) On the National University of Tucumán, see Roberto Pucci, Pasado y Presente de la Universidad Tucumana: Reforma, dictaduras y populismo neoliberal (Buenos Aires: Lumiere: 2012). Verónica Ovejero, “El nacimiento de la televisión universitaria en Tucumán: Fundamentos y aspectos institucionales” (paper presented at the 4th “Congreso Internacional de la Asociación Argentina de Estudios de Cine y Audiovisual,” ASAECA, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, March 13–15, 2014). On the Tucumán student movement, see Juan Sebastián Califa and Mariano Millán, El movimiento estudiantil argentino: Historias con presente (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Cooperativas, 2007); Pablo Bonavena, “Tucumán 1966: El movimiento estudiantil de Tucumán frente a la Revolución Argentina” (paper presented at “Primeras Jornadas de Historia Reciente del NOA. Memoria, Fuentes Orales y Ciencias Sociales,” San Miguel de Tucumán, July 2010); and Silvia Nassif, Tucumanazos: Una huella histórica de luchas populares, 1969–1972 (Tucumán: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2012).

(17.) On June 28, Juan Domingo Perón granted an interview to a correspondent of the weekly Primera Plana in which he outlined his expectations of the coup, justifying it for the “corruption” of Illia’s government. The interview appeared in a special edition of Primera Plana on June 30, 1966.

(19.) On the psycho-social processes of migration and the impact on the subjectivity of the inhabitants who chose to emigrate from the province, see Josefina Racedo, “Vida cotidiana en comunidades del Norte argentino (IV), in Crítica de la vida cotidiana, ed. Ana Quiroga and Josefina Racedo (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Cinco, 2010).

(20.) For studies on the demographic impact, see José Antonio Cerro, “Consideraciones sobre la evolución comparada de las Provincias Argentinas de la década de 1960,” Cuaderno 71 (1973); María Beatriz Ceballos, “La migración tucumana en el período 1960–1970,” Cuaderno 88 (2000); and Pucci, Historia de la destrucción.

(21.) On the Comités Pro-Defensa, see Pucci, Historia de la destrucción; and Nassif, Tucumán en llamas.

(23.) “Entonces resultaron secuestrados 15 pobladores de Los Ralos, de los cuales 10 u 11 pertenecían o habían trabajado en Escalada.” See Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Industrial, November 2010. According to the list of the kidnapped and disappeared linked to Textil Escalada recorded in the documentary by Pablo René and Nahuel Valcarce, 2009, they were: Lauro (Laido) Fuensalida (1946–June 10, 1977); Lisandro Díaz (1946–October 8, 1976); Sixto Villareal (1945–June 10, 1977); Antonio Paz (1950–October 8, 1976); Domingo Díaz (1949–October 8, 1976); Chorbita Salinas (1936–March 12, 1976); and Veliz Narciso (1946–June 10, 1976). The first two were part of the Steering Committee in 1972, the former as secretary general and the latter as secretary of press and propaganda. La Gaceta, July 18, 1972.

(24.) On the workers’ struggle in Tucumán during this period, see, for example, Silvia Sigal, Acción obrera en una situación de crisis: Tucumán, 1966–1968 (Buenos Aires: Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Centro de Investigaciones Sociales; 1973); Ana Julia Ramírez, “La protesta en la provincia de Tucumán, 1965–1969” (paper presented at the 28th Lasa International Congress, Montreal, 2007); and Pucci, Historia de la destrucción.

(25.) On the assassination of Hilda Guerrero de Molina, see Luis Cerrutti Costa, Tucumán, Argentina, Latinoamérica (Buenos Aires: Ed. Estuario, 1968); Lucía Mercado, Santa Lucía de Tucumán: La Base (Buenos Aires:Lucía Mercado, 2005); and Silvia Nassif, “Resistencia obrera y popular en Tucumán en los inicios de la dictadura de Onganía: Asesinato de Hilda Guerrero de Molina y pueblada en Bella Vista,” Trabajo y Sociedad 29 (2017): 195–221.

(26.) On the national workers’ movement during this period, see Alejandro Schneider, Los compañeros: Trabajadores, Izquierda y Peronismo, 1955–1973 (Buenos Aires: Imago Mundi, 2006); and Victoria Basualdo, “Los delegados y las comisiones internas en la historia Argentina: 1943–2007,” in La industria y el sindicalismo de base en la Argentina, ed. Daniel Azpiazu, Martín Schorr, and Victoria Basualdo (Buenos Aires: Cara o Ceca, 2010).

(27.) Ana Longoni and Mariano Mestman, Del Di Tella a “Tucumán Arde”: Vanguardia artística y política en el ’68 argentino (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 2008).

(28.) On the conceptualization of these facts, see the contributions of Beba Balve, et al., Lucha de calles, lucha de clases (Buenos Aires: Ediciones La Rosa Blindada, 1973); Beba Balve and Beatriz Balve, El ’69, Huelga política de masas: Rosariazo-Cordobazo-Rosariazo (Buenos Aires: Razón y Revolución CICSO, 2005); and Nicolás Iñigo Carrera, “Algunos instrumentos para el análisis de las luchas populares en la historia reciente,” in Luchas contrahegemónicas y cambios políticos recientes de América Latina, ed. Margarita López Maya (Buenos Aires: CLACSO, 2008). On the characterization of the people, see the work of Rubén Laufer and Claudio Spiguel, in which, although they mainly analyze the Santiagueñazo of 1993, they also carry out a historical analysis of the people from the 1960s and 1970s: Rubén Laufer and Claudio Spiguel, “Las ‘puebladas’ argentinas a partir del ‘santiagueñazo’ de 1993: Tradición histórica y nuevas formas de lucha,” in Lucha popular, democracia, neoliberalismo: Protesta popular en América Latina en los años de ajuste, ed. Margarita López Maya (Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela/Nueva Sociedad, 1999). On the Cordobazo in particular see James Brennan and Mónica Gordillo, Córdoba rebelde: El cordobazo, el clasismo y la movilización social (Buenos Aires: De la Campana, 2008).

(29.) On the popular uprisings of the Tucumanazos, see Emilio Crenzel, El Tucumanazo (Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 1997); Rubén Kotler, “El Tucumanazo, los Tucumanazos (1969–1972)” (paper presented at “Memoria del VII Congreso Encuentro Nacional y I Congreso Internacional de Historia Oral,” 2005); and Nassif, Tucumanazos.

(30.) A journalistic study of the murder by police of Víctor Alberto Villalba, the twenty-year-old university student from the province of Salta, can be found in Mario García Aldonate, Autores desconocidos (Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 1992).

(31.) On the 1974 sugar strike, see Taire Marcos, El último grito 1974: Crónica de la huelga de los obreros tucumanos de la FOTIA (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Pago Chico, 2008); and Silvia Nassif, “La huelga azucarera de septiembre de 1974 en Tucumán: Un hito del movimiento obrero durante el tercer gobierno peronista,” Población y Sociedad 25, no. 2 (2018).

(32.) Martin Andersen questions whether the guerillas posed any serious danger, affirming that this organization was not a real threat (the army mobilized 5,000 men against no more than 120 or 140 militants) and that the struggle in the province served as a testing ground, particularly in the army, for the institutionalization of some of the techniques of the “Triple A.” See Martin Andersen, Dossier secreto: El mito de la “guerra sucia” en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2000), 155. Meanwhile, the Tucumán historian Roberto Pucci asserts that the guerrilla “never numbered more than 50/100 fighters, facing a force that oscillated between 2,500 and 6,000 military personnel: on one side of the combat was an army, on the other a handful of armed individuals.” Roberto Pucci, “Tucumán, 1975: La guerrilla y el terrorismo de Estado antes del golpe militar,” in Autoritarismo y dictadura en Tucumán, ed. Luis Bonano and Roberto Pucci (Buenos Aires: Catálogos, 2009), 237.

(33.) Declaración de Vilas, Cuerpo Nº 1, Anexo Prueba Causa Menéndez, Prueba Testimonial C. Declaraciones de Ex Comandantes, Ex Gobernadores, 1984.

(34.) CONADEP revealed that “Tucumán had the sinister privilege of having inaugurated the ‘institution’ of Clandestine Detention Center as one of the fundamental tools of the system of repression assembled in Argentina,” Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas, Nunca Más: Informe de la Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 2013), 216.

(35.) The Bicameral Commission of the province of Tucumán mentioned the installation of clandestine detention centers in Tucumán on the premises of the La Fronterita mill and the use of the former Lules and New Bavaria mills. Gobierno de la Provincia de Tucumán–Comisión Bicameral, Informe de la Comisión Bicameral investigadora de las violaciones de los Derechos Humanos en la Provincia de Tucumán (1974–1983) (Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Políticos para América Latina y África-Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 1991) 114–117. The report of the CONADEP, Nunca más, also mentions the use of Bella Vista facilities (p. 218).

(36.) Silvia Nassif, “Terrorismo de Estado en la Argentina: Tucumán y la ofensiva contra los obreros de la agro-industria azucarera,” Revista Interdisciplinaria de Estudios Agrarios 48 (2018): 57–91.

(37.) Several researchers have addressed the “theory of the two demons,” from different approaches, see for example: Carlos Acuña and Catalina Smulovitz, “Militares en la transición argentina: Del gobierno a la subordinación constitucional,” in Juicio, castigo y memorias: Derechos humanos y justicia en la política argentina, ed. Carlos Acuña et al. (Buenos Aires: Nueva Visión, 1995); Hugo Vezzetti, Pasado y presente: Guerra, dictadura y sociedad en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 2002); Emilio Crenzel, La historia política del Nunca Más: La memoria de las desapariciones en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2008); and Marina Franco, “La ‘teoría de los dos demonios’ en la primera etapa de la posdictadura,” in Democracia, hora cero: Actores políticas y debates en los inicios de la posdictadura, ed. Claudia Feld and Marina Franco (Buenos Aires, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2015).

(38.) Silvia Nassif, “Protagonistas olvidados: Las luchas obreras en Tucumán en los años ’60 y principios de los ’70,” Estudios 34 (2015).

(39.) See for example Carlos Páez de la Torre, Historia de Tucumán (Buenos Aires: Plus Ultra, 1987).

(40.) During Operation Independence, a significant number of people suffered under the repressive actions of the armed forces, particularly in Tucumán. Artese and Roffinell note that during this period more than a third of the total number of kidnappings and disappearances took place in the region, a number unmatched in any other region of the country. Matías Artese and Gabriela Roffinelli, “Guerra y genocidio en Tucumán, 1975–1983,” in Luchas de clases, guerra civil y genocidio en la Argentina, 1973–1983, ed. Inés Izaguirre (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 2012), 320. Inés Izaguirre observes that in Tucumán almost 37 percent of the victims had disappeared or had been executed before March 24, 1976. Inés Izaguirre, “Impunidad y legalidad: Una síntesis del Operativo Independencia en la provincia de Tucumán” (paper presented at “Primeras Jornadas de Historia Reciente del NOA. Memoria, Fuentes Orales y Ciencias Sociales,” San Miguel de Tucumán, July 2010). On state repression during Operation Independence, see Ana Jemio and Alejandra Pisani, “Las explicaciones sobre el proceso genocida en los discursos de pobladores de Famaillá, Tucumán, 1975–1983,” Historia, Voces y Memoria 4 (2012). On the case of genocide in Argentina, see Daniel Feierstein, El genocidio como práctica social: Entre el nazismo y la experiencia argentina; hacia un análisis del aniquilamiento como reorganizador de las relaciones sociales (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2007).

(41.) A large number of victims were workers from only two job sites: the Concepción and La Fronterita sugar mills. At least fifty-one sugar workers were recognized as victims of crimes against humanity between 1974 and 1979: Programa Verdad y Justicia de la Nación, et al., Responsabilidad empresarial en delitos de lesa humanidad: Represión a trabajadores durante el terrorismo de Estado (Buenos Aires, Infojus, 2015). See also Nassif, “Terrorismo de Estado en la Argentina”; and Victoria Basualdo and Alejandro Jasinski, “La represión a los trabajadores y el movimiento sindical, 1974–1983,” in Represión estatal y violencia paraestatal en la historia reciente argentina: Nuevos abordajes a 40 años del golpe de Estado, ed. Gabriela Aguila et al. (La Plata: Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 2017). On the repressive dynamics of the armed forces see the report of the Provincial Bicameral Commission, Informe de la Comisión; and that of CONADEP, Nunca Más. Hernán López Echagüe indicates contributions made by the sugar employers to the armed forces for the purposes of repression: Hernán López Echagüe, El enigma del General Bussi: Del Operativo Independencia al Operativo Retorno (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1991), 41. Marcos Taire discusses the collaboration of owners of the former Santa Lucia and La Fronterita sugar mill, see “A ‘war’ tailored to the sugar oligarchy,” “Una ‘guerra’ a la medida de la oligarquía azucarera”, Miradas al Sur, 2013. Emilio Crenzel looks at the collaboration of employers, indicating that the methodology of disappearing people updated traditional forms of employer-based violence at the local level: Emilio Crenzel, “El Operativo Independencia en Tucumán,” in Ese Ardiente Jardín de la República: Formación y desarticulación de un “campo” cultural; Tucumán, 1880–1975, ed. Fabiola Orquera (Córdoba: Alción Editorial, 2010) 389.